tv Pamphlets and the American Revolution CSPAN December 6, 2015 6:43pm-7:43pm EST
.hat is live monday night for background on the cases, order your copy of the landmark cases companion book. >> next, pulitzer prize-winning author gordon would looks at the role of political pamphlets in the american revolution. they were the primary medium for political debate at the time. taxation without representation to natural rights. societyyork historical hosted this event. gordon wood: this is the
most vibrant historical society in the country. 25 years ago it was on deaths door and this is just a remarkable recovery. in 2015, this is the 250th anniversary of the stamp act. the library of america asked me to edit two volumes of pamphlets. it is a nonprofit institution dedicated to publishing the best writings in america. well over 270 volumes already.
they usually contain a good deal of scholarship. but they are for general readers interested in particular subjects. their generosity made possible the publication of these two volumes. they are collectors themselves. me he had 30 of the 39 pamphlets that are in these two volumes. the stamp act was a tax levied by the parliament on the colonies. bonds, college diplomas, playing , deeds, just about every kind of paper used in the colonies. from the bridgepoint of you, attacks on the colonies -- tax
on the colonies made a lot of sense. the british had just ousted the butch from this continent they had borrowed heavily to do this and they were very deeply in debt. it seemed only right that the colonists should pay their fair share for this. the stamp act ignited a firestorm of opposition. it swept through the colonies with unprecedented force. none of the colonists ever paid a stamp tax. it sparked more than riots and mobs. precipitated the greatest constitutional debates in western history. all of the fundamental issues of politics and government. power and liberty. popular consents.
differences between statutes and fundamental law. the issue of sovereignty. stageslated in several until climaxed in the declaration of independence. the argument was exhilarating. it forced the british and the colonists to clarify their different experiences over the. of the last century. been hidden from view over a century and a half. by the time the imperial debate was over, americans not only to clarify their understanding but they had prepared the way for their grand experiment in self-government. this momentous debate was carried on in pamphlets. we ended up with 39 of them.
quipped, we now have the 39 steps to independence. it was the social media of the day. .hey were inexpensive between 5000 and 25,000 words. easy and cheap to make. perfect for rapid exchange of arguments. some were very important. i can't say that i read every one of them. by read many of them. some of the most significance statements about politics ever made.
contains the most significant of them. pamphlets were written by british writers who were hostile to the american cause. nine were written by americans who remained loyal to the crown. the rest of the works of various from samuel hopkins to philip livingston. i will take you through this momentous debate. a number of british pamphleteers set out to justify the tax.
he was a sub minister under the prime minister. he was the person who drafted the stamp act. colonists,hat the like englishmen everywhere, were subject to the parliament under the term virtual representation. for englishmen voting was not the criteria. he said that even though the colonists did not choose any representatives, they were a part of the commons of great britain. they are represented in the same manner as those who have no voices of elections.
there are lots of people who did not vote in great britain itself. electorate british ,omprised only a tiny portion only about one in six adult males could vote. there was nothing like it anywhere else in europe. the colonists had the even broader electorate for their provincial assemblies. of threes two out adult white males could vote. men withoutomen and property could not vote. britain's districts were confusing mixture of sizes and shapes left over from centuries
of history. some of these constituencies were large but others was small. a few of them had no inhabitants at all. dunwich of done continued to send representatives even though it had slipped into the north sea. on the other hand, manufacturing centers had grown enormously in recent years. the medieval representatives had long since fallen away. they do not have to live in the districts.
that is still true today in the house of commons. britainpeople of great were virtually represented because the electoral process was not the measure of it. this struck americans as absurd. violation ofious one person one vote. it was not so absurd for most endorsement. the british claimed that people by the mutualed interests that members of parliamentembers of were presumed to share with other british subjects. americans strongly resented
these claims. in the most notable colonial who's written by daniel delaney of maryland. he denied its applicability to the colonies. america is a distinct community from england that cannot be virtually represented by the agents of another community. a swiss born pastor from georgia pushed beyond this argument and challenged the very idea of virtual representation. he called it actual representation. if people will be properly represented in the legislature,
not only do they have to actually vote, they had to be whoseented by members numbers were more or less proportionate to the size the population. he had a modern american view. james otis of massachusetts said what purpose is served by the continuing efforts of englishmen to justify this lack of representation? those places ought to be represented. in the new world, electoral districts were not the products of history that went back hundreds of years. ,hey were recent creations within people's memories.
when new towns in massachusetts were formed, two new representatives were usually sent to the general court. the same was true in virginia. in the 1760's there were rebellions because they had been extended representation to the provincial assembly fast enough. they expected to be represented. the expectations of the colonists had become very different. most americans of come to believe in a very different type of representation. election was not incidental but central. you could vote, you weren't
represented. this stress to the closest possible ties between the local actors and representatives. for americans it was only proper that representatives be residents of the localities that they spoke for. it was the fullest and most equal representation of the people that the modern world had seen. before we dismiss the british view, we need to appreciate it. welcome some virtual representation in today's house
of representatives. in 1773 sums up the idea. that he gave to his constituency. he said parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests. it is a deliberative assembly of one nation with one interest where local purposes and prejudices whatnot to guide. only the general good should guide. bute are fine sentiments difficult to sustain in the system organized by local districts. representatives is really a congress of ambassadors. it might be important to point out that berg lost that
election. justificationer for this virtual representation. actual representation makes the process of voting the criterion. does this mean that the person you didn't vote for wednesday election you are thereby not represented? what is the justification for majority rule? why should we accept ruled by persons we didn't vote for? the process of virtual representation answers those questions. it talks about the mutuality of interests between the representative and the people at large. it justifies majority rule,
which actual representation really doesn't. benjamin franklin was responsible for the next stage of the debate. in 1766, his testimony before the house of commons was publishes a pamphlet. it helped to justify parliaments appeal of the stamp act. to cover this embarrassing parliament passed the declaratory act. which asserted its right to legislate for the colonies in all cases whatsoever. this was a robust assertion of parliamentary sovereignty. there had to be in every state one final supreme indivisible lawmaking authority.
it was made famous by william blackstone. that doctrine was the most idea in british political thought. franklin had mistakenly suggested that the colonists would always object to an internal tax. they might not object to it next since fadeaways regulated the right of parliaments to regulate trade with the empire. admitted that parliament had some authority over them. parliamentp act recognize that too.
maybe the british government andd levy duties on imports raise revenue that way. in 1767 the transfer of the exchequer, charles townshend, admitted he did not see any distinction between internal and external taxes. he said he was willing to indulge the americans. to levy andent on external taxes on colonial imports of lead, class, paper and tea. these townsend acts aroused riots and not importation
agreements. a were stymied from the outset. dickerson, a wealthy pennsylvania lawyer, try to sort it out. called letteras from a pennsylvania farmer. popular pamphlet in the debate into we get to thomas payne. conceded that parliaments have the right to regulate america's trade. it had always done so. to tax theright colonists. it mattered not whether the taxes were internal or external. how to distinguish between one answer lay in the the colonists ability to
discover the intentions of those who rule over us. suddenly americans have turned lavishl debate into a exercise in deciphering british motives. this was a time when deceit was thought to be everywhere. americans became a obsessed with conspiracies. 1768, the colonists were still trying to explain their previous experience in the empire. trying to draw these distinctions made them look confused. the british offered a simple but powerful argument based on the doctrine of sovereignty. there had to be one final supreme indivisible lawmaking authority. otherwise the government would power within a
power. another subcabinet official sought to clarify the matter. was to bust this debate wide open. it began with the issue of representation. now the issue is sovereignty. with the colonists except in one instance, that you accept all of them. if they denied parliaments authority, they must denied it all instances.
britainn between great and the colonies must be dissolved. there is no alternative. they were either totally under the authority are totally outside and this is a very important point that is not easily grasped. favored parliaments, tories favored the crown. they thought it was inconceivable that anyone would want to protect -- escape from the protection of parliament. parliament had written the habeas corpus act, the bill of rights of 1689. it was the historic and guardian of property and the bulwark of
liberties against the encroachments of the crown. tierney came from the crown, not the parliament. us off in ance let very different constitutional direction from the english. englishmen, parliament was the protector of rights. it was not a threat to liberty. there was no need to protect themselves against acts of parliament. the english constitution contained lots of written documents including magna charta. that limited the king. there are no written documents limiting parliaments. king --ments living the limiting the king were all acts of parliament.
in england there was no written constitution. there still isn't. parliaments could do away with .abeas corpus by simple statute they did that in northern ireland. they don't have the supreme court. the constitution was not a document set apart from ordinary lawmaking. said there could be no distinction between the constitution and the system of laws. every act of parliament is part of the constitution. the terms constitutional and unconstitutional mean legal and illegal. nothing could be more different
from what we americans came to believe. it is precisely on this distinction that the american and english traditions diverged in the revolution. we went off in two different directions. the english bill of rights was only a statute of parliament. but surely the colonists insisted they were of a nature more sacred than a bill establishing a turnpike road?
the fundamental principles of the constitution had to be lifted out of the lawmaking process and the other institutions of government. in all three states, samuel adams said, the constitution is fixed. they cannot leave the bounds of it without destroying its own foundation. when americans made their own constitutions, they inevitably sought to make some fundamental and to write them out in separate documents. this explains the different response to the act of parliament. americare people in that parliament's role as the bulwark of liberty meant that no one in his right mind want to be outside of parliaments authority. governor thomas hutchinson of whigchusetts was a good
and he cannot imagine the colonists wanting to be outside the authority of parliament. he lectured people on the doctrine of sovereignty. would convince them how foolish they were in opposing parliament. in a speech to the massachusetts general court, hutchinson said there was no line between the supreme authority of parliament and the total independence of the colonies. there cannot be two independent legislatures.
hutchinson is saying that it imperium within the imperium. hutchinson assumed that no good englishmen would want to be out from under parliaments benign authority. alternative, the massachusetts representatives, shows whatohn adams, governor hutchinson never imagined. it accepted the logic of sovereignty. there can be no line between the supreme authority of parliament and the independence of the colonies, either we other vassals of parliament or the must be independent. the conclusion is we must be
independent. hutchinson center dot by giving on this alternative. he said it up by giving on this alternative. the colonies had to be distinct states from the mother country. this marks an extraordinary moment in the history of the debate. by 1774 all the leading patriot pamphlet writers, including jefferson and adams, had confronted this choice. either all in her all out. cut have chosen to themselves off completely from parliament but not from the british crown. they set forth a radically new .onception
each of the 13 colonies was totally independent of parliament but each retained its allegiance to the king. that was the common link in the empire. lord north said this is a tory position. have labeled this the dominion theory of the empire. it anticipated the statute of westminster of 1931. this established the legislative independence of the different dominions, such as canada and new zealand. they have their own legislatures that they have a common monarch, queen elizabeth. by asserting their independence from the authority of parliament, the colonists had
not repudiated the got dr. sovereignty. they had surrendered to it. many scholars don't seem to appreciate this. theugh the decade of debate colonists had tried to divide legislative authority. they said it can do this but not that. had to be separate spheres of authority in the empire. they could admit any division of authority. by 1774 most of the patriot pamphleteers have given up. they despaired of trying to divide the indivisible. they finally accepted the logic of sovereignty. one final supreme lawmaking authority. to legislatures in the same state, said alexander hamilton, cannot be supposed without falling into that solecism of politics.
john adams agreed. they could not be true any more than two supreme beings in one universe. so the colonial legislatures must be the sole legislative authority. disavowed the concept of legislative sovereignty, they just transplanted it to their provincial legislatures. the colonists were not able to account for parliaments previous regulation of their trade. this is why james wilson was led to make his remarkable proposal
that we should grant the kang power to regulate trade. the best of the colonists could do, no one accepted wilson's parliament tollow have parliaments power over their external commerce. congress called it the necessity of the case. we're doing it out of necessity. way to deal with this. the colonists have concluded that they were side to -- tied solely to the king. it is not some but we read the declaration of independence.
all of the indictments were leveled solely at the king. third, you refused to do this, you did that. it never mentions parliament. it was parliament that had enacted the stamp act and the other intolerable acts. king george was the only thing that mattered in the declaration. that the king has to subjectth others us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution. jefferson wanted the declaration to be scrupulously legal. this is just one of the
constitutional issues. debate andraordinary pamphlets. they thought they learned how to make their own constitutions. to protect popular rights and liberties. to separate powers. the problem of sovereignty did not go away. in 1787, when, the country was drawing up a new federal constitution, the anti-federalists raised the issue of sovereignty once again. they said that there had to be only one final supreme indivisible lawmaking authority. because of the supremacy clause in the constitution, it was bound to be the federal government that would be the ultimate supreme body. the states would be reduced to laying out roads while
sovereignty rested with the u.s. congress. the defenders of the constitution did not like this argument. they try to divide power. it was outlined in article one, section eight of the constitution. through theeralists doctrine of sovereignty back in their faces. government power can't be divided, they said. there must be one final supreme .ndivisible lawmaking authority this was the most powerful argument that the anti-federalists mounted. wilson, the philadelphia lawyer, and underrated founder. he found the answer.
is one of the most powerful arguments. wilson found an answer in a speech he gave. he gave up trying to divide sovereignty. we were relocated in the people at large. he was not saying all power comes from the people. authoritylawmaking lies with the people at large. outside of the institutions of government. sovereignty rests with the people, not with government institutions. this was a brilliant solution. not so obvious of the time. founder,the crucial this solves all of our problems.
now we see the government as pieces to bits of their various agents. governors, weresentatives even judges considered to be agents of people. the terms houses of representatives is an awkward reminder that there was an earlier time when there was just one part of the government that was representative. today we think of the senate is representative and other parts of the government as well. even though the house of representatives is stuck with that name. reminder of ad world that has been lost. all institutions of government now have become agents of the people. we have examples of that
sovereignty. exercised in several states. not so much here in the east. initiativesd ballot . western states like california and oregon and colorado have used this much more frequently than any state in the east. direct democracy. the sovereignty of the people. whether it is a good thing in practice or not, i believe that your judgment. thank you. [applause] i will be happy to take questions. only one question per person. to make speeches.
speeches.ake you paint a picture of an incredible level of sophistication in these political discussions. in your writings, some of the pamphlet writers are names that are not commonly known. the average person, how in tune were they with these sophisticated issues? all of these pamphlets except for thomas payne's, were written for the elite. john dickerson's pamphlet is loaded with classical references. he has more footnotes that he has text. fellowriting for his lawyers and educated people. high level of discussion.
the ideapercolate down and get repeated in newspapers. phrases like asia without representation. the sophistication of the argument is designed for very well-educated people. when you come to thomas payne, he really breaks the rules. he has no references in his pamphlet to any classical authors except the bible and the english book of common prayer. he assumes his readership knows nothing except those two books. orreferences to montesquieu aristotle or cicero. that is a major rhetorical breakthrough.
paine is trying to reach a wider readership. these readers differ by colony? would massachusetts have a very large number? wood: readership would've been greater in those colonies that had cities. charleston was a good-sized city but south of the mason-dixon line there were very few cities. williamsburg had very few people. in the bigeaders cities of the north. boston, new york, philadelphia.
the south was a much more rural area. with some pampers from the south but most of them were written by northern authors with northern temperaments. but dickerson's pamphlet circulated everywhere. many people would read dickerson's pamphlet. world, by ourite about 2% of the population was college-educated. the station was between gentlemen and commoners. we put gentlemen on our restroom doors. but for them it was actually a legal distinction between gentlemen and commoners. population2% of the
in the south were considered gentlemen. maybe 5% in the north. thomas paine was writing for a middle group. by the 19 century becomes the middle class. not college-educated but smart. they know how to read and write. of hiscome the readers pamphlet. how many of them read john dickinson's pamphlet is a question. what the footnotes to history. the fact that new york did not
participate in that vote on the declaration of independence. we have stained from the vote. abstained from the vote. they was structured as independence from king george. any thoughts on why that was? of all the colonies, new york had the greatest number of loyalists. for a number of reasons. then, a heterogeneous createion that helped to more fearful atmospheres so that people were more scared of democracy. letting the people rule.
there was a hesitancy. end, new york did join. there are moments of the continental congress when they didn't. the delegates walked out and .ere very much anti-federalist they saw the virginia plan and they walked out. quorum. had no they had to move on without votes. many speeches and new york never had a vote. new york was hesitant for that reason and they were paralyzed out of concern that the populace would run wild.
were having the senators designed to appease small states that were worried and it never occurred that they would have the state legislature and there is a constitutional way of dealing with this. there is no prescription in the constitution to have districts. we can elect at large and that was a case in many states. and,anged it to districts in some states, when the youslature is locked and have gerrymandering and so on, they are forced to run at large.
we can do that now in california. the representatives of california could run at large and it would change the nature of things. it is unlikely that would happen. by all means, in a small state, the representative runs at large. them running at large, it would be constitutional and there is no prohibition against it. part of the madisonian idea behind the constitution was a better caliber of person in the government. that is why he narrowed representation, so a place like south carolina would have the state legislature -- he thought the state legislatures were running wild and it was populism
running wild. if you think the tea party is that today, it was bad for him in 1780. populistsd out the and excessive democrats. it would work this way -- there were 235 members of the north carolina legislature and five congressman given in the first congress to north carolina and madison assumed to there will only five college graduates in carolina and they would be the ones who would be the liberal cosmetologist -- cosmopolitans. that was the idea. it was always a problem of how you would have a designation. we lost control of that.
a problem we have with the house of representatives and the government in general is the destruction of the mediation createdions and we have the atomization of politics with isrybody running -- it unbelievable atomization of politics and we have destroyed the mediating institutions that act as screens. the parties are weak. they used to control the candidates. now, look at the primaries. it is difficult to stop when you decide." the people who will stand against the people? the federalists are trying to find new ways of stifling the people because the people can be crazy. we see this happening. this is a problem.
back when jack kennedy ran, he had a couple of primaries and had to run in west virginia to or daly inawrence chicago, illinois. could the catholic win in the protestant state question mark he did and he controlled the delegations -- state? he did and he controlled the delegations. you cannot say that and you cannot get away with that now. we have destroyed the ability to choose our candidates properly and we can see that happening now in the republican party. representationl and it is difficult to stop. you are letting the people the side. who can stop that? democracy trumps everything.
not to use that term. beating, not trump! questioner: what made the early colonies a spark against england? it seems like they had the access to the political philosophers. why did it happen in the u.s.? wood: there were radical movements to change things. the, they rationalize representational system and there are people corrupting -- protesting the corruption. responded to the writers who
are libertarian. that is the literature we found the most powerful. bernard or the book on american politics to get a sense of this. it is a complicated issue of why americans and colonists deviate. they deviate from the beginning. we do not know this until issues are raised in this debate and people say, we do not believe in this. they are forced to confront creatence and it did not diversions. it exposed divergence. the englishman in the 18th
century assumed the parliament was a protector of liberty and they did not realize americans would have a different view. americans respected parliament ,nd, when push comes to shove when it comes to enacting unconstitutional laws, in england, they could not have the unconstitutional law. you cannot today. there is no supreme court that says a statute is unconstitutional. the americans deviate and it takes a debate to open their eyes to the experience. 150-175 years is experience --al
we will see you again. thank you all for coming. andove having you with us we love doing this program. good night. launching american history television all weekend on c-span. join the conversation on face book. >> coming up next, texas tech university professor sarah keyes talks about her current book project on the oregon trail. she provides background on the threats that people faced on the trail and explains how they dealt with death on the journey. we interviewed the professor at the western history association annual conference in portland, oregon, in october. this is about 20 minutes.
susan: what led to your work on the oregon trail? prof. keyes: i am a child of the 1980's, and i grew up playing the game. how you are trying to survive this trek across the continent. it has always been a part of my touchstone. after college when i began to consider graduate school, i realize that this was a story that had not been retold by academics in decades. it was something that i wanted to pursue. susan: most everyone has heard of the oregon trail, can you just give us a brief overview of where it started, where it ended, and what years people traveled it. prof. keyes: great question. many of the people who traveled to oregon and california, were moving from towns on the edge of the western settled united stays in places like missouri. they're coming from places that are more interior, farming communities in illinois and iowa.